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Effect of spousal military deployment during pregnancy on neonatal birth outcomes: a systematic review
  1. Kirsten Morris
  1. Public Health Registrar, Army Medical Services, Camberley, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kirsten Morris, Army Medical Services, Camberley GU15 4NP, UK; kirsten.morris{at}


Introduction Stress experienced during pregnancy is associated with adverse birth outcomes including preterm delivery (PTD) and low birth weight (LBW). Pregnant spouses and partners of deployed military personnel can experience heightened stress due to several factors associated with the military lifestyle. This systematic review aims to ascertain whether deployment at the time of delivery increases the risk of PTD and/or LBW in babies born to pregnant spouses or partners of deployed service persons.

Methods A systematic review was conducted following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses method by searching EMBASE, Medline, PubMed and Global Health databases from inception to March 2021. Keyword searches were used to identify primary research, English language journal articles, that included any military branch and reported a measure of PTD and/or LBW of babies born to spouses/partners of deployed service persons. Risk of bias was assessed with validated tools appropriate for study type and a narrative synthesis was performed.

Results Three cohort or cross-sectional studies fulfilled the eligibility criteria. All three studies were conducted in the US military, were published between 2005 and 2016 and included a cumulative total of 11 028 participants. Evidence suggests that spousal deployment may be a risk factor for PTD, although strength of evidence is weak. No association between spousal deployment and LBW was found.

Conclusion Pregnant spouses and partners of deployed military personnel may be at increased risk of PTD. The strength of evidence is limited by a paucity of rigorous research in this area. No studies were identified that included service women in the UK Armed Forces. Further research is required to understand the perinatal needs of pregnant spouses/partners of deployed service persons and to understand if there are unmet clinical or social needs in this population.


Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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  • Contributors KM is the sole author of this systematic review and accepts the responsibility for the overall content as the guarantor. KM solely conducted the development of the protocol, execution of the research and writing of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.